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In a swift operation, chief of Khalistan Liberation Front militant outfit Harminder Singh Mintoo was arrested here last night within hours of his escape from Nabha jail in Punjab, with Delhi Police saying he was planning to flee abroad, to Malaysia or Germany.
However, high alert continued in Punjab, Haryana and Delhi as about 12 armed dreaded fugitives are still at large.
Two cars used by them in the escape have been found in Haryana's Kaithal district.
48-year-old Mintoo was nabbed from Nizamuddin railway station's parking area, marking the second arrest in the sensational jailbreak case of yesterday morning in which 8 people stormed the prison to free six inmates -- two militants and four dreaded criminals.
Earlier, Parminder alias Penda was arrested yesterday in Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh, few hours after the jailbreak.
Harminder was carrying a sophisticated semi-automatic pistol along with six live cartridges when he was arrested, Arvind Deep, Special Commissioner of Delhi Police's Special Cell, told reporters here today.
"He had bought a (train) ticket for Panvel and from there he had plans to go to Mumbai and then to Goa. He had good contacts in Goa since he had stayed there for 18 years from 1989 to 2007," Deep said while giving details of the arrest effected nearly 200 km from the scene of the crime.
Finally, Harminder planned to flee to Germany or Malaysia, where he had good contacts since he had stayed there, police sources said.
He was produced before a court here which sent him to seven days' police custody.
During interrogation, Harminder said the jailbreak was under planning for the last six months and its masterminds and executors were Gurpreet Singh Sekhon and Harjinder Singh who are members of a criminal gang, said DCP (Special Cell) P S Kushwah.
Giving details of the operation, Kushwah said after
receiving information about the escape of six men from Nabha Jail of Punjab, Delhi Police was put on high alert and the Special Cell was also tasked by senior officers to develop information and apprehend them.
There was quick sharing of information by Punjab, Haryana and UP Police with their counterparts in Delhi.
Meanwhile, information was received that one of the criminals identified as Palwinder Singh alias Penda was arrested by UP police in Shamli district.
On interrogation, Palwinder disclosed that Harminder and Kashmeer Singh were dropped by him in Kaithal, Haryana. He said that they might come to Delhi, the DCP said.
Pictures of Harminder and Kashmeer were circulated through whatsapp to all the districts and an alert was also issued to all the SHOs about his presence in Delhi, he said.
Police personnel were asked to be on lookout for any suspicious movement, the DCP said.
"Personnel were deployed on probable hideout areas and checking of guest houses was undertaken. Searches were conducted at bus terminals, railway stations, etc," he said.
A police team was deployed at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station where they noticed a Sikh man having patka on his head and a trimmed beard that looked as if it had been trimmed haphazardly and improperly, said Kushwah, adding that he was looking extra conscious which raised suspicion.
"The person bought ticket and came outside of the building and as he was moving out, he was apprehended by the police personnel who grappled with him and managed to snatch the pistol from him," he said.
A case under sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions) IPC along with relevant sections of the Arms Act and 20 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act has been registered at Police Station Special Cell, said the DCP.
"On the day of incident, all the men who ultimately escaped from jail were out in the open in the jail premises as a 'bhandara' was being organized at the Gurudwara in jail premises. In accordance with their plan, they reached near the exit gate of the jail at the time when the intruders in police uniform stormed the jail," the officer added.
"After escaping from the jail, Harminder, Kashmeer Singh, Gurpreet Singh Shekhon and Amandeep Singh, boarded a Toyota Fortuner. Shekhon was driving the vehicle. Around 24 kms before Kurushetra, Harminder Singh and Kashmeer Singh got down from the vehicle," Kushwah said.
They were given Rs 19,000 by Mani (Shekhon's brother).
"Both of them had hidden themselves in the sugarcane fields. Kashmeer Singh went to the nearby village and brought a pair of scissors. They cut their hair and trimmed their beard to change their appearance and boarded a jeep to Kurushetra. From Kurushetra to Panipat, they went by bus and then changed another bus to ISBT, Delhi," said Kushwah.
Sources said that Kashmeer and Harminder had separated at Kashmere Gate bus terminal in Delhi to avoid suspicion and apprehension and had decided to move separately towards Nizamuddin Railway Station with the objective of ultimately going to Goa where Mintoo had lived for 18 years, the officer added.
"Mintoo used to visit Pakistan frequently and there are reports that he had backing of Pakistan's ISI, which is being investigated," the DCP (Special Cell) said.
"He was involved in 12 terror-related cases, including the attack on Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in 2008 and recovery of explosives at Halwara Air Force Station near Ludhiana in 2010," said Kushwah.
Mintoo was earlier a member of Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) which he left in year 2009 and revived Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF).
He used to operate from Thailand and Malaysia before he was arrested by police from IGI airport in 2014 after being deported from Thailand for possessing fake passport.
In Thailand, Mintoo had set up a base and was using it to mobilise funds for the banned Sikh groups, Kushwah said.
Before being arrested, he had also travelled to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, the officer said.
Parminder, who was arrested yesterday in Shamli district, has claimed that 8 people were involved in the jailbreak and he was in contact with them through Whatsapp.
He said during interrogation that he was staying in a hideout in Dehradun and five other fugitives were in Karnal and Panipat in search of a hideout, Uttar Pradesh Police said.
Parminder, who was accused of killing Punjab police inspector Gurudev and was on the run, told police he was also involved in narcotic smuggling in states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab, SP of Shamli District Ajay Sharma said.
Last evening, when he was travelling to Dehradun his vehicle was intercepted by police at a check post in Kairana in Shamli district in western Uttar Pradesh, police said.
Meanwhile, amidst opposition attack on the Akali Dal-led government of Punjab over the jailbreak incident, its Deputy Chief Minister Sukbhir Singh Badal insisted that law and order situation in the state was fine.
"No such incident took place in past 7-8 years. It an unfortunate incident. We have suspended jail superintendent and jail officers, we have dismissed them from their job," he said.
He said investigation into the matter is on and "the main conspirator has been nabbed in UP while the main terrorist who escaped (the jail) has also been nabbed in Delhi. Police is looking for others.